According to the T.V. shows the handcuffs get slapped on, the person is put in the back of the police car and the next thing you know a jury is deciding innocence or guilt. However, there are a few other steps that you will go through before you find yourself in front of a jury of your peers.
The first stop will be the local jail. At this stage, you will see a judge and a bond will be set. The bond must be paid in order to get out of jail. If you are originally taken to and held in a city jail, you will be transferred to the county jail within a day or two. The county jail (Lew Sterrett in Dallas County) will be where you will stay until you either pay the bond in cash at the jail or arrange with a bondsman to post the bond for your release.
Often an experienced criminal defense attorney can get the bond amount lowered to make it easier for family and friends to bond you out.
Whether you remain in jail or get out on bond you will have to start showing up at court once your case gets filed. Depending on the nature of the offense, it could be a few months before you must appear.
Whether or not your case is a misdemeanor or felony, the first step will be for the arresting officer to file the case with the District Attorney's office. The D.A. will review the case and decide whether to accept it. If a misdemeanor case is accepted it is then sent to one of the County Criminal Courts. If a felony case is accepted the matter is set for a Grand Jury hearing. If the Grand Jury believes there is probable cause (NOT innocence or guilt) that the alleged incident occurred, then the case is indicted and sent to one of the Criminal District Courts.
At this stage hopefully, you have hired a criminal defense attorney to represent you. However, if you can't afford to hire one the court will appoint one to handle your case.
Each court has prosecutors that your attorney will deal with throughout the duration of your case. The prosecutor (the State) will provide your attorney with all the evidence they have against you. This will include any reports generated by the police, any blood or breath test results, and anybody's cam or dashcam videos. Your attorney will review all evidence and begin negotiations with the prosecution.
The prosecution will make a recommendation as to the sentence (punishment) they are seeking. The offers will usually be either: deferred probation (case dismissed after probation); straight probation (results in a conviction but no jail time); or jail time. Again, this is where the negotiations are crucial. The first offer is seldom if ever accepted. A good defense attorney will know what to look for and find the holes that can so often be poked in the State's case.
There are several possible outcomes for any case. If an agreement is reached between you and the State that agreement is presented to the judge and the agreed plea completes the case. If an agreement cannot be reached you can go "open" to the court. Going open means you are asking the judge to decide the outcome. The State will argue their position and you will have an opportunity to present your side as well. The other option is of course to take the matter to trial. A trial can be before the judge or a jury.
The purpose of this post has been to focus on the rough outline of what happens when you get arrested. It is highly recommended that if you find yourself in the backseat of that police car you contact an attorney sooner rather than later.